August 31, 2010

North Beach Branch Library Landmark Resolution Poised For Adoption

North Beach Branch Library (Image Source:

Having already voted to recommend that the Board of Supervisors designate the North Beach Branch Library as a City Landmark in June, tomorrow San Francisco’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) is scheduled to review the resolution it’s poised to adopt and pass along to the Board.

Landmarking of the Library would have a significant impact on the master plan for the North Beach Library/Joe DiMaggio Playground project which is scheduled to be reviewed by San Francisco’s Planning Commission and public on October 7.

Preservation Commission Recommends New North Beach Landmark [SocketSite]
Historic Preservation Commission Meeting Agenda: September 1, 2010 []
North Beach Branch Library Draft Resolution []
North Beach Library And Playground Plans Like You Read About [SocketSite]
North Beach Library/Joe DiMaggio Playground Master Plan Report [SocketSite]

First Published: August 31, 2010 6:00 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

just think, that means entire subdivisions in the south bay are historic. Someone should alert UNESCO!

Posted by: James at August 31, 2010 9:11 AM

John King's article about this in the Chronicle this morning was very good.

Posted by: curly at August 31, 2010 9:16 AM

some people need to learn that simply making a mark on the land does not equate "landmark."

Certain SFers try to make any library, auto repair shop, run down theatre, or warehouse into a landmark.

it seems that much is lost in the debate. What is the true historical significance of this particular library? the reasons given are a stretch.

Does leaving this particular library intact really further our understanding of San Francisco History?

Should my shag carpet, wood paneled apartment with avocado green toilets and yellow appliances be designated historical too, since it "it embodies all the principles of mid-20th-century American apartment design and displays a signature style developed by (input the developer's name here)"?

Posted by: ex SF-er at August 31, 2010 9:59 AM

Landmarking this library is simply a way for a few neighbors to preserve their parking spaces on the half-block of Mason that would be taken by the park expansion. Nobody cares about the library itself.

Posted by: James at August 31, 2010 10:38 AM

Looks like the NIMBYs who didn't want their parking spots reduced got their wish.

Posted by: sfrenegade at August 31, 2010 11:14 AM

The effects on the group of Appleton & Wolfard libraries by the BLIP program is not mentioned. The merced branch has been "ruined" conceptually and physically without any discussion of preservation as the most sustainable alternative. The North Beach historic photos along with the other libraries by Appleton and Wolfard show the simple modern crisp lines of the prior buildings and are available on the SFPL website. The need here is to look at the proposal by preservationists and the alternatives IGNORED by the planning department and BLIP library programs to date.

Posted by: Aaron Goodman at August 31, 2010 11:18 AM

John King got it exactly right. Preserving good examples of mid-modern architecture is a fine idea, but this building, for all of the reasons he mentions, is a terrible candidate for landmark status. It would be a shame for North Beach families if the new library doesn't get built.

Posted by: Mike Sullivan at August 31, 2010 12:52 PM

Kudos to John King for writing so eloquently and clearly about why this building should NOT be preserved. Not every single building in SF that is older than 50 years should be preserved, even if that building had a "minor" architectural legacy.

Historic preservation at times is used by the preservationists to prevent growth and change to the next generation. Some preservationists become extremely narrow minded and single focused that they cannot see the future.

Posted by: noearch at August 31, 2010 4:29 PM

"Historic preservation AT TIMES is used by the preservationists to prevent growth and change to the next generation. SOME preservationists become extremely narrow minded and single focused that they cannot see the future."

But SOME preservationists interested in the future ask that people think before mindlessly ripping up everything in the present. The new library can be built on the triangle site while incorporating the old one into a new park setting for future generations. This is about the Parks Department wanting to spend a lot of bond money on a bureaucrat's dream, not about preservation.

Posted by: herb c. at August 31, 2010 6:56 PM

Don't agree with you. I have stated pretty clearly that I think Historic Preservation can be used the wrong way, and in some, perhaps many cases here in SF simply impedes change and progress. Look at the Pagoda Theater in North Beach, shuttered now for what? 15 years due to preservationists wanting to save it. Completely misguided.

John King has stated why the building is not worthy of preservation and the architects for the proposed new building clearly have stated the many problems with the older building and functional uses for the future.

Unfortunately, I fear the ultra conservative Historic Preservation Commission will not listen to these stories and will landmark this out of date building.

Posted by: noearch at August 31, 2010 8:50 PM

This structure makes me think of a quadruple wide mobile home. Ridiculous to protect it. That and the idiotic preservation of (temporary!) earthquake cottages makes me think some people have more time than sense, or that they use these fights to pump their chest in order to gain wider power.

Posted by: lol at September 1, 2010 8:54 AM

This neighborhood has tons of kids (you'd be surprised) and others who are just dying for a decent library that is usable. The one there is totally overworked. The new plan would build a structure we could all use and be proud of, plus give the neighborhood kids large play spaces, sports space, and be a much better fit. Almost all the families in the neighborhood want this new library to be built. Only a very few people want it kept historic, and their reasons pale in comparison to the very dire needs of families and neighbors. This whole process is sad, how the minority can rule, and only because they have a fetish for mid-century (for a design that totally blows, frankly) and want some parking places kept. The whole thing is pathetic. Normally, I'm a big preservationist. Not for this.

Posted by: Robin at September 6, 2010 2:53 PM

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